NBC News reports that United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name from consideration for the Secretary of State position in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. According to NBC, Rice has sent a letter to Obama announcing her decision.
“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in the letter. “That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country…Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.”
The announcement marks the culmination of weeks of partisan tensions over Rice, who was rumoured to have been the White House favourite to replace Hillary Clinton. Republicans, led by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), have led a visceral assault on Rice, making it clear that she would be in for a long and nasty confirmation battle should Obama choose to nominate her. And McCain’s appointment to the Senate Foreign Relations committee this week virtually guaranteed that Republicans would block Rice’s appointment.
Although Obama initially seemed reluctant to cave to McCain’s threats, it’s become increasingly clear that it would be unwise for the President to pick a fight over Rice while also trying to reach a deal with Republicans on the fiscal cliff.
The issues with Rice have largely centered around her appearances on Sunday news shows in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Libya, when she suggested that the attacks were a spontaneous demonstration in response to an obscure anti-Muslim YouTube video. Of course, those claims turned out to false.
Although the case against Rice was not particularly strong, few came to her defence. And over the last week, criticism of Rice has expanded to include questions about her dealings with African diplomats as deputy Secretary of African Affairs under the Clinton administration, and about her stake in the company that is building the Keystone Pipeline.
In her letter to Obama, Rice acknowledges the attacks, taking a shot at her partisan detractors:
“The position of Secretary of State should never be politicized,” she wrote. “I’m saddened that we have reached this point, even before you have decided whom to nominate. We cannot afford such an irresponsible distraction from the most pressing issues facing the American people.”
She ends by thanking the President for his “extraordinary personal support during these past several weeks.”
UPDATE, 3:55 p.m.:
Here’s Obama’s statement responding to Rice’s decision:
Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her calibre and character representing our country.
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